(The Center Square) – Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, stepped down Wednesday to announce his run for governor concurrent with another Republican legislator.
“Five years ago, under bittersweet conditions, I was honored to be elected leader of the Senate Republican Caucus,” Gazelka wrote in a letter. “I have those same bittersweet feelings today as I announce my intention to step aside as your leader.”
Gazelka said leading the caucus “has been the most rewarding experience of my life,” and named his accomplishments, including:
- Finding agreement on three consecutive budgets without raising taxes over the strong objections of both Gov. Mark Dayton and Tim Walz.
- Cutting income tax rates for the first time in 20 years in addition to tax cuts for Social Security income and small business and agriculture property taxes.
- Blocking an exhaustive list of DFL-pursued policies that would have slowed the growth in Minnesota’s economy, taken away rights and freedoms, and worst of all harmed our families.
- Growing the caucus from a razor-thin one-vote majority in 2017 to a comfortable working majority through special election victories and strategically attracting centrist Democrats to join our efforts.
- Raising and spending record amounts in the 2020 election, winning back-to-back Republican majorities in the Senate for the first time in history, even during a strong Democratic wave.
“These accomplishments were possible because we stuck to our principles and communicated directly with the people of Minnesota,” Gazelka wrote. “Again, I’m so very grateful for the work we’ve accomplished together and believe the caucus is in a very strong position to be successful in the 2022 session and the subsequent election.”
State Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, has also announced her candidacy for governor.
“An extreme agenda is dividing us with radical, leftist policies that aren’t Minnesotan,” Benson said in a statement. “Trying to defund the police while crime rates are skyrocketing. Shutting down schools, and crippling neighborhood businesses, when the science and common sense says it’s safe to keep them open. I’ve seen enough, and it’s time to get to work.
Benson is running on three values: Minnesota roots, family values, and successful leadership.
“Minnesota should be a place where dreams can grow,” Benson said. “Where families succeed. It will be hard work, but together, we can make Minnesota safer, better, and stronger. A brighter future for Minnesota starts right now. Let’s get to work.”
The two Republicans, along with former Republican state Sen. Scott Jensen, likely will challenge DFL incumbent Gov. Tim Walz in 2022. However, Walz has yet to announce whether he’ll run for reelection.